Rowing: Haining outfoxes a rabbit

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The Independent Online
PETER HAINING opened his defence of the world lightweight sculling title with an aggressive but controlled race to push the DutchmanPepijn Aardewijn into the repechage heat. His rival from this season, the 1991 champion Niall O'Toole, from Ireland, qualified direct to the semi-final from the other heat alongside the new sculler from France, Jose Oyarzabal.

The Czech, Tomas Kacovsky, set off like a rabbit and led for the first 500 metres, but faded to finish nearly 20 seconds behind. In the second half of the race, Haining maintained the pressure without needing to raise his stroke rate. 'My heartbeat was 20 pips off its peak of around 200, so I sculled away after crossing the line to let them know I wasn't tired,' he said.

Haining is as close as anyone can be to being in control of the event, so he can become only the third person to win twice in a row. However, he is well aware of how much can go wrong and is offering no predictions for next Sunday. 'Let us concentrate on Thursday's semi-final and make sure I'm there when it counts,' he said.

The London Rowing Club lightweight four, who set the world record for coxless fours in June in Paris, lacked lustre in their heat, finishing second behind a new but highly qualified Australian crew.

Ben Helm said they had lost half a length at the start to the Australians, powered by Gary Lynagh, a triple world champion in crew sculling events. Helm said they pushed hard after 750 metres but made little impact on the Australians, who gained another half-length. Entering the last quarter of the race, the London four opted out off a final effort and cruised home to save themselves for the repechage.

The lightweight pair of Roger Everington and Mark Partridge were off the pace in their heat, finishing nearly 10 seconds behind the 1993 silver medal pair from Russia. Ireland, the winners in Lucerne, took the other heat by a huge margin and may be in line for the country's first gold medal.

Patricia Corless finished a respectable third in her lightweight single sculls heat, and might scrape into the final from the repechage tomorrow. The lightweight double scull of Andy Sinton and Stuart Whitelaw took a more confident step towards a place in the final with a convincing win in their repechage.